A rather eclectic collection has gone on display inside an equally eclectic building that is worth a visit in its own right if you haven’t been before.

And most people haven’t as it only open to the public for a few months each year, and even then only since late 2011.

This is the former Astor House, and nestles just behind the Temple complex for lawyers, and more conveniently, around the corner from Temple tube station. Now with a more anonymous name, this is Two Temple Place.

Entry is via a double door, and staff will inform you that this time the exhibition is on both the ground floor, and upstairs, which is perfect for upstairs is where the building will blow you away with its decoration.

But you’re here to see the exhibition, aren’t you?

This is “Art, Science & Exploration from the University of Cambridge Museums“, and can be best described as a random collection of curiosities lent by the museum to put on display somewhere.

Nothing especially amazing stands out, it is all really quite reasonably interesting. That said, the full skeleton of a Dodo is a rarity, as was the replica model of the DNA double-helix in the staircase.

In a way, it is the sort of collection that a modestly well off Victorian gentleman might have built up, and is now on display in a late Victorian era house.

So do linger a while, but pass through doors you must to the grand staircase to head upstairs.

And what stairs they are! No, not the stairs themselves — look up at the ceiling.

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Have earthly leaden feet ever elevated a person skywards towards such a vision of heavenly delight?

Dotted around the upper landing are paintings and portraits, but go through the gift shop and into the great hall.

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Stop looking at the building, you are here for the exhibition, but oh how that vaulted ceiling draws the eye upwards.

IMG_2412The ornate doorway draws the eye, away from the paintings on either side. Stop looking at the intricate wooden carvings, you’re here for the exhibition!

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Niches in either side fill with blasts of colour on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Stop admiring the glass and get back to the statues on loan from the University.

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A lesser room next door — which would be ornate in any other place — is where you can pay penance for your architectural distractions and give full attention to some glorious prints.

Having absolved yourself, back to the delights of the staircase, and if so minded, to the ground floor cafe.

The building is open until the 27th April [opening hours].

Entry is free. [map link]

Did I mention that they have an exhibition on as well?

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2 comments
  1. JP says:

    Thanks for the tip – really enjoyed my visit this morning!

  2. The Duke of Waltham says:

    Not a vaulted ceiling, a hammerbeam roof, with statues in front of the posts! This is extraordinary. And those stairs… Magnificent, absolutely magnificent. There really is much to be said about building (internally) plain museums that will draw attention to the exhibits rather than away from them, but here I appreciate how people are given the opportunity to see a 19th-century private collection in its natural environment—which also happens, in this case, to be the star exhibit. A hidden gem indeed.

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